Sunday, April 29, 2012

A grand (and occasionally sort of literary) day out

It's been a wet weekend (in the way that the prelude to Noah's flood was wet) but in-between showers we got a day out in the country. The Scottish one wanted to visit Kirby hall in Northamptonshire, much of it's a shell now but still in a very grand and Elizabethan way - it was used as a set for 'Mansfield Park' (which is the vaguely literary connection). It's a stunning place particularly if you have an interest in architectural history and garden design, the advantage of it being a ruin is that you can see how the building was constructed without the distraction of 400 years of interior design covering it's bones.

However despite the impressive building and grey skies the thing that really impressed me was the huge flock of peacocks (apparently the collective noun is an ostentation) and the noise they made along with the very vocal rookery that surrounds the hall. I spent a lot of time trying to stalk peacocks in which I would have been entirely unsuccessful if they hadn't been quite tame, quite thick, and unable to see what's going on behind them when there tales are spread. The peahens, very dowdy in comparison, have a much more intelligent gleam in their eyes and were singularly unmoved by their menfolk's display. 

On the way back from Kirby we saw another English Heritage sign as we passed through Lyddington - this was for Lyddington Bede house, originally a wing of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Lincoln, but an almshouse from 1600 up to about 1930. This building is pretty much whole but stripped to the bone, the rooms directly under the slates of the roof are particularly lovely - huge unexpected spaces full of their years. The bedesmen's rooms are small but not unappealing, we both managed to find one we felt wouldn't be a bad place to end our days in (if a monastic and possibly damp lifestyle appealed). It took me a few minutes to realise what a bede house was (in our defence we were thinking about the venerable Bede and the bishops palace) but when it clicked I was in Trollope's 'The Warden' Lyddington isn't Barchester, although there were complaints against the warden misbehaving in the 1890's, but this must have been exactly the sort of building he had in mind and it really bought the book to life.

The day ended in Uppingham with tea, cake (very good cake) and a visit to a serious antiquarian book shop. Lots of lovely folio society copies (which were very reasonably priced) and then another league of book - I had half an eye on a 6 volume set of Virginia Woolf's letters from the Hogarth Press. If I liked Virginia Woolf more (at all) and had £300 it would have been very tempting. The Scottish one was eyeing up something in Latin which was the size of a table and priced at £2000 - it seemed like a good time to go home.

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